Mary DeLong West's Wedding Dress, 1896

1976.139.2, pattern available on site
As it says at the site, this was "worn by Mary DeLong in 1896 when she married Charles F. West." And you can see it on Mary as well - in the photograph, there's some beaded trim running around the middle of the collar and on the edges of the cuffs, and a large bow on the back of the collar, but that hasn't survived. Personally, I think it looks better without the trim.

The chiffon overlayer is not included on the pattern, but it's just rectangular blocks with slight curves cut for the neckline and armscye.

Has anyone made an 1890s outfit with this sort of elastic in the skirt? That's the sort of detail that always makes me want to do a little experimental archaeology.

There were two wedding dresses from the mid-1890s with provenance, but I went with this one because I love satin - it stays in such good condition. One of the 18th century gowns I patterned for my book is satin, and you'd have thought it was made yesterday. Both dresses are attractive, but this one seemed like it would make a better pattern. And talking about the choice is making me want to pattern the other as well. But I can't right now!


  1. Wow, Cassidy, this is fascinating! I wore my grandma's early 1900 cotton lace wedding gown, and it had some of the same features, the puffy lace over the cotton lawn underneath, the skirt that hooked to the bodice. It had modest gigot sleeves. I'm curious, too, about the elastic construction. I guess that pulled the fullness of the skirts to the back, leaving the front panel very flat. Cool! But why do you think they used the velvet band around the hem? Was it to keep the inside of the satin skirt clean?

    1. From the wedding portrait, it looks like pulling the fullness to the back is part of it, plus making it hang in those really swoopy folds. I couldn't get an accurate measure of its original length, since it's all degraded and stretched out, but it's definitely meant to be loose enough that there's no noticeable pulled-in spot.

      The velvet's probably a combination of things. Most Victorian skirt hems were bound or faced or backed, because that keeps the fold of the hem from wearing. Since the velvet's heavier than the usual silk or wool tape, it also adds some more body and structure to the skirt to help it hang in those folds (although the skirt's already stiffened with buckram). And then there's the visual element.


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